NORTON, Mass. -- Looks like it just got a little easier for Tiger Woods to win his annual year-ending tournament.
Assuming he qualifies for a spot.
Defending champion Graeme McDowell, who last fall at the Chevron World Challenge outdueled Woods is one of the most exciting finishes of the year, confirmed Thursday that it's going to be logistically impossible for him to return.
The Chevron event this year is set for Dec. 1-4, the week after McDowell will be paired with Irish teammate Rory McIlroy in the World Cup in China. The week after the Chevron event, staged in suburban Thousand Oaks, McDowell will play in the European Tour' season finale, the Race to Dubai event in the Middle East.
McDowell said he had already spoken with Chevron tournament officials and was hoping to speak to Woods personally before he formally backed out of defending, but hasn't seen Woods of late. Woods didn’t qualify for the current FedEx Cup series, which is staging its second leg this week at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
"I don’t see how I can do it, unless he wants to send me a jet," McDowell said.
From China to California to Dubai in a span of eight days would be hard for anybody to survive.
"The schedule is just so compressed this year," McDowell said. "Dubai, it's just too important a week for us. I am trying to play both tours. But with a Ryder Cup year coming, it's too important. I have to be ready to play when I get there."
The Chevron event, while unofficial, was one of four titles McDowell won in his transcendent 2010 season, including the U.S. Open.
The Dubai event has a $7.5 million purse, the richest European Tour event of the year. McDowell is 33rd in the Race to Dubai standings, otherwise known as the money list. To make the 2012 Ryder Cup team as an automatic pick, he needs to pick up as much in earnings as possible.
"I would love to play," he said. "It's not so much the week of Tiger's event that I am worrying about -- it's the week after [Dubai]."
As for Woods, he fell to No. 38 in the world ranking this week, and if he falls out of the top 50 while idle over the next three weeks, he won’t be eligible to play. In order to the Chevron to award world ranking points, each of the 18 players in the field must be ranked in the top 50 when the rankings are issued Sept. 19.
It's a longshot, however, that Woods will fall that fast, even though by Sept. 19 it will have been two years since his last PGA Tour win in Chicago.